We’re pretty lucky here in Southern Minnesota — we get enough rain that we rarely have to water our lawns and tend to be surrounded by green (at least during the summer months). That said, there are many ways to make your lawn greener — healthier, more lush, better for the environment and better for your family.
Here’s ten steps you can take to grow a better lawn.
- If you have your sprinkler set on a timer, make sure to disable it if you get rain. Only water when it’s really needed.
- Keep your grass a little longer. Never “scalp” your lawn. Lawn Advisor explains: “Grass cut too short will absorb less sunshine though its leaves, hurting its ability to survive and defend itself against diseases and insects. Sunlight can more easily penetrate what’s left of the lawn, providing an ideal environment for weed seeds to germinate. A higher cut helps ensure a deeper root system. Never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade during a mowing. The remaining 2/3 will develop deep roots and spread out, eventually creating a dense, healthy turf.”
- Plant the best grass for your area. Some grasses are better suited for heat, cold, drought, etc. For instance, here in the Mankato area we’re well suited for grasses like Bluegrass and Fescue, while a lawn in the coastal south might be well suited for carpetgrass. Here’s a chart to help you find some good options.
- Replace at least some of your grass with gardens and landscaping materials. Grass takes up work and resources, while not providing much in return. Plant other things like vegetable gardens and raspberry patches, and you’ll get loads in return. Bushes and shrubs also provide food and habitats for birds and other wildlife.
- Seed your lawn with clover. Clover is pretty, soft underfoot, nourishing for the soil, low to the ground and drought resistant. Clover needs less frequent mowing and hardly any water, plus it feels delightful on bare feet! Just don’t use herbicides on your lawn or you’ll kill it all off.
- Avoid herbicides. Those chemicals poison more than just your weeds and clover. They also increase cancer risks, especially for your pets and children. The best way to keep weeds at bay is to keep your grass healthy so the weeds can’t get a foothold.
- Put your kids to work. Hand pulling weeds like dandelions can be tedious work, but it’s a great way to eradicate them. Many parents pay kids five or ten cents per dandelion (it’s important that they get the root too!). It’s a great way for kids to earn extra money and to naturally take care of your lawn.
- Water early in the morning or late in the day. Never water in the heat of the day, when most of the water will simply evaporate.
- Also be sure to water deeply and infrequently. Your lawn will develop deeper root systems and grow stronger if it gets deep waterings just when needed, rather than frequent light waterings.
- Leave your clippings to nourish the lawn. There’s no need to bag or rake up your grass clippings. Leave them where they are and they’ll break down and provide natural fertilizer for your grass. If you have a few areas with bigger piles of clippings, scoop those up and use them in the compost heap or as mulch for your garden. Again, it’s important not to use chemical herbicides or pesticides on your lawn if you’re going to use the clippings this way.
Also remember not to fight nature when it comes to your lawn. If you have an area of your yard that gets full shade, don’t expend all of your energy on a losing battle trying to keep grass lush and green there. Instead, plant some shade-tolerant groundcovers in that area or convert it to a children’s play area or sitting area, where the shade will be put to good use. Likewise, an area with a steep slant will be very hard to mow and keep healthy if you have grass there. Plant some great hillside perennials like daylilies in that area and they’ll provide protection against erosion, make the area look great, and require lots less effort on your part.
Use this common sense outlook with your lawn and you’ll ultimately make less work for yourself, have a healthier lawn and help the planet.